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Review for 'Drudkh - Microcosmos'
It is an undeniable fact that Ukrainian legends Drudkh are one of the world's most established and respected Pagan Black Metal bands, a feat made even more impressive given the fact that they came into being as late as 2002. This should be a good enough indicator of Drudkh's prowess at producing fine music, although the best way to certify this would be with some physical evidence. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I proudly present to you exhibit A, their seventh full length album, Microcosmos.
One thing worth mentioning straight away about Microcosmos are the occasional appearances of guitar solos throughout the whole album performed by Roman Saenko himself, with each song containing at least one solo and all of them being executed very convincingly, coming across naturally without detracting from the album's atmosphere. This aspect of the album contrasts greatly with most of Drudkh's other albums, and Black Metal in general for that matter, which is known for the infrequent presence of any kind of guitar solo, however reason for their presence is justifiable and explained further on. Also worth mentioning is that, in typical Drudkh fashion, the majority of lyrics for Microcosmos are from notable Ukrainian poets, such as Ivan Franko, Bohdan Rubchak and Oleh Olzhych.
Microcosmos begins with a brief one minute intro consisting of some traditional folk instruments that, to be honest, is a little too short. Any intro that sounds this brilliant and intriguing deserves to last at least a full two minutes or even more. However, the intro does it's job of setting the mood and the first song, titled "Distant Cries Of Cranes", begins with some epic guitar riffs that dive the listener straight into the landscapes that Drudkh always manage to portray perfectly though their music, and it isn't long before vocalist Thurios makes you aware of his presence, giving a great performance as always. Interestingly, not only does "Distant Cries Of Cranes" feature a great guitar solo, there are also a couple of nice bass solos thrown in there too!
While the first track is excellent in itself, next up is the even better "Decadence", the longest track on the album. The song starts off by gaining momentum for the first three minutes, and then Roman Saenko really shows off his guitar and songwriting skills, with the vocals not joining in until the sixth minute, allowing the entire focus to be set on the guitars themselves for the majority of the song. While the entire album is brilliant, the song structure and length of "Decadence" make it the stand-out track on Microcosmos. The next song is "Ars Poetica" which contains some truly amazing guitar work from start to finish, which is also very uplifting, inspiring and instantly memorable, with an excellent guitar solo included at the half-way point for good measure, although it does stray into melancholic territory occasionally.
The last proper song on the album, titled "Everything Unsaid Before", actually kicks off straight away with a great rock-style guitar solo before returning to a more standard Drudkh song routine, or at least standard for this album, because the truth is that due to the way the songs are structured and the way the guitars and drums are played, Microcosmos can sometimes appear to be a hybrid of Pagan Black Metal and progressive rock, with the guitar solos eliminating any doubt of the latter's influence. But please, don't let this put you off, because it all fits together brilliantly without diminishing the "trueness" of the music. If, based on your experience with other Drudkh albums, you agree that they excel at making good music, then there is nothing to be afraid of with Microcosmos.
Curiously, the one minute outro to Microcosmos, titled "Widow's Grief", is apparently a sample from the 1995 Ukrainian movie Atentat which deals with the life and assassination of Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army during and after World War II, although you wouldn't be able to tell it was taken from a movie unless you had actually seen it a dozen times, as the track features little more than the sounds of a flowing river accompanied by some traditional string instruments that sound not unlike violins. Maybe they are violins, or at least the eastern-European equivalent to violins. I don't really know for sure. The important thing is that the outro is a great piece of ambient music, regardless of it's origin or the instruments involved, and it brings Microcosmos to a close in a similar manner to how the it begins.
And there you have it. Quite simply, Microcosmos is one of Drudkh's best albums, featuring all of the great characteristics that we have begun to take for granted from this amazing Ukrainian band in recent years after getting used to them consistently producing top quality Pagan Black Metal albums. The only downside to Microcosmos is that, just like with almost every other Drudkh album, despite the feeling of historic grandeur that it gives off, it's all over after only 40 minutes. I look forward to the day when they decide to treat us all to an 80 minute colossus!
What other albums sound similar to this?
Finding a similar sounding album to Drudkh's Microcosmos is harder than it seems. Although the album on the surface appears to be played in a more or less typical Pagan Black Metal style, you have to take into account the underlying progressiveness about Microcosmos that differentiates it from your average Pagan Black Metal sound. Regardless of this detail, your first stop should be other great albums by Drudkh, including Autumn Aurora, The Swan Road, Blood In Our Wells and Forgotten Legends, but more specifically, you should also check out Drudkh's two latest albums, Handful Of Stars and Eternal Turn Of The Wheel, as they are the closest relatives of Microcosmos, sound-wise.
Moving on to other bands, if you can afford to accept the fact that the music that Drudkh create is pretty much unique and searching for something identical is futile, you will enjoy listening to other mildly similar classics from the Pagan Black Metal genre such as Negură Bunget's 2006 masterpiece Om, Hate Forest's Battlefields, Kroda's Cry To Me, River, Kladovest's Atmosphere and Nokturnal Mortum's The Voice Of Steel, with the last four all proceeding from Drudkh's homeland of Ukraine.
If it's simply Pagan Black Metal in any shape or form you are after, just so long as it's good, then look no further than our list of the Best Pagan Black Metal Albums, there are hundreds of excellent albums to choose from.
In a nutshell...
Once again, Ukrainian heroes Drudkh have unleashed a monster of an album upon the world, but this is no ugly monster. In true Drudkh spirit, Microcosmos is an epic album that provides the listener with a one-way ticket into the heart of a forgotten realm somewhere deep within the eastern lands that has remained almost untouched by human intervention in centuries, visiting endless forests and long-since overgrown battlefields, accompanied by a fantastic hybrid of Pagan Black Metal and something that almost feels like progressive rock, all fitting together in perfect harmony.
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